To celebrate one year of marriage, we decided to try to pull together all our points/miles/etc. and put together an awesome anniversary trip.  Neither of us had ever been so Spain, so that seemed like a pretty awesome location! :-) MC went into super-planning mode and put together an awesome celebration of us getting married just over one year ago.

Day 1 – Off to Spain!

Saturday we got up and ran, packed and cleaned then headed to Atlanta. Drive actually went smoothly this time (unlike last time where we sat in traffic for over an hour!) and we got checked in, changed some currency, and boarded our plane! We had been spoiled in the past and had flown business class, but we were unable to finagle that this time so coach it was!


Ready to hit the skies!



It was definitely a shift as I was only able to manage a couple hours combined through sporadic naps and MC didn’t get to sleep at all.  Needless to say, we weren’t exactly spritely when we arrived in Madrid. We waited a while for the Hilton shuttle and when it finally came it was mobbed by a large group that showed up like 10 minutes before it came.  No one cared that we had been waiting for a half an hour and the “trunk” filled up quickly so MC and I had to hold our luggage in our laps.  Luckily it was a short trip to the hotel!  While it was annoying to share my seat with my luggage, it meant I could bolt off the bus and straight to the front desk while people waited to get their luggage. haHA! So we were first to check in.  Because it was pretty early we had the choice between a smoking room with king sized bed or a non-smoking with twins.  We went with the non-smoking, even if it made it feel a little more like we were rooming together in a college dorm.

My beautiful roommate



Since we were both pretty beat, we decided to take a nap to try to help get us on Spain schedule.  After our little-longer-than-planned nap, we took the shuttle to the airport then the express bus to the center of Madrid.  We wanted to check out the Museo del Prado so we started moseying that direction and stopped at a nearby place to grab a bite to eat.  After our meal we headed to Museo del Prado.

My sweetie wants to see some art!



Saw a lot of cool art here, notably many from Francisco Goya along with some PicassoVelázquez and Murillo.  From there we walked to Plaza Del Sol and stopped at Cerveceria 100 Montaditos for a drink and snack.

Tinto verano por favor!



Side note: as is the Hilton way, they ridiculously overcharge for internet at their hotels (though, in my opinion, charging for internet at all is overpriced). We balked at Hilton’s 20 euro a day internet so we also spent the day periodically checking for open wifi hotspots so we could connect to the precious internets.  We luckily discovered an internet cafe right next door to the bar that was 0.6 euro for 15 minutes.

Yay internets!



This at least allowed us to let our loved ones know that we arrived and checked in safely and get a quick internet fix before making the trek back to the hotel.  We hopped on the express bus and made a brief assumption that slowed us down a bit. Apparently, the bus drivers don’t stop at every stop on their route.  If you don’t hit the button, they don’t stop. Another side note, Terminal 4 is, like, MILES from terminals 1, 2, and 3.  end side note.  So when we missed/forgot our button push for terminal 1, it kinda felt as though the bus driver was starting to take use out to the middle of nowhere to kill/maim/eat/etc. us.  Luckily, MC talked to him and confirmed that we simply forgot to push the button.  We finally made it to our terminal and then to the shuttle and enjoyed a couple drinks at the hotel bar before calling it a night.

Day 2 – Day Trip to Toledo

We got up bright… er… dark and early so that we could catch the bus over to Toledo. We had a few issues actually finding the train we were supposed to be on, but once we got it settled it was a quick 40 minute trip.


Um... isn't that where the train should be?



We were greeted in Toledo with overcast skies and rain, which was kind of a bummer since one of our main planned activities was just to walk around the town.  We caught the bus to the middle of town and quickly procured a cheap poncho and little Spain umbrella. Once we were as protected from the weather as we were going to be, we walked down to the Cathedral of Toledo.


It is always cool to see these old cathedrals, but after seeing St. Peter’s Basilica, they all sort of pale in comparison.  From the cathedral we walked until we found a little place called Ceverceria el trébol to eat, but it wasn’t serving lunch until 1pm (little different than we’re used to).  Luckily, they WERE serving tapas and drinks so we went with that and continued to walk around Toledo.

They got some fancy benches in Toledo



One thing that Toledo is known for is its knives. It felt like every other store had huge displays of knives and swords.  Kinda felt like and old school version of Tiajuana, haha.

Think Delta would let me bring a broadsword as my personal item?



We walked around and stopped at a few random places then stopped at another little church that housed The Burial of Count Orgaz by El Greco. From there we caught the bus to the center of town then walked to a nearby vista to get a panoramic shot and enjoy the view (the weather was starting to get a little bit better at this point).

Overlooking Toledo



Even though the weather was improving, we were kinda tired of walking around the rainy streets all day and ended up hopping on an earlier bus to head back to Madrid.

Toledo may be rainy, but we are still in Spain!



I promptly passed out on the ride back and was ready to go once we had returned.  The Reina Sofia is a modern art museum that we wanted to check out, but we were hoping to wait until after 6 when they have free admission.  We had forgotten what time the free admission was so we ended up getting there too early and decided to walk to El Brilliante to grab some food until it was time to hit the museum.  I had their signature, and awesome, calamari sandwich and MC had a fish dish and a meatball dish. They also had a wonderful ambiance of a guy welding/sanding/rebuilding one of their counters.  MC ordered an entire pitcher of sangria and I had a pretty large beer, so we were feeling pretty good by the time we were done.

Looks like museum fuel to me!



We walked back out to the museum only to find that the line was now ENORMOUS due to the free admission kicking in.  So we decided we would just postpone that activity until the next day and just go ahead and pay to go when it is less busy.  Since, on average, it took us about 45 minutes to get back to the hotel (had to take the express bus to the airport then wait for the hotel shuttle) and we were still recuperating from the travel, we decided to just mosey home.

We spent a lot of time on the ExpressBus



On the way to the bus, some guy came running by us and his watch (we believe) took a little chunk out of my sweetie’s hand! Our first casualty of travel :-) We stopped by the room then headed back down to the hotel bar and realized that we had an alternative to Hilton’s crazy expensive internet rates.  If you buy over 5 euro worth of drinks at the bar, you can use their wifi for 2 hours.  So we enjoyed beer, awesome sangria, and being connected for a little while before hitting the sack.

Looks like a helluva way to end a good day in Spain



Day 3 – More Madrid

We decided that this day would be a good day to adopt the Spanish trend of starting late and ending late and enjoyed sleeping in a bit longer than we had the day before. :-) Once we finally got up and at’em, we walked to Chocolateria San Gines to enjoy a breakfast of hot chocolate (super thick like melted chocolate!) and churros. It was a great way to start our day.


One way to get energy for galavanting around Madrid



After food we headed through the Plaza Mayor then on to the Royal Palace.

The Palace



Toured the palace then sat in the nearby park to figure out where to head for lunch.  Found the Cafe Oriente (recommended by Rick Steve) where we had a wonderful and large 3 course meal.

After getting thoroughly stuffed we decided to check out Buen Retiro Park as a place to walk off a few of those calories.


Enjoying the fall colors


One of the cool things that they had was kinda like a playground for adults.  There were a bunch of things set up so that anyone could come to the park and get a well-rounded workout. MC decided to take advantage since, other than walking, we hadn’t been getting a lot of exercise thus far. This was even more entertaining as she was surrounded by Spaniards very intensely using the surrounding workout equipment.  As you can see in the lower middle photo, I preferred to use the bench for my workout.

After the workout, we decided to try the modern art museum again only to get strike three, closed on Tuesdays! After that failure, we stopped by the train station to see if we could make changes to our tickets since we were leaving in the morning and we wanted to try to squeeze in the museum (4th time’s a charm, right?) before we left.  They were uncooperative, but we figured we may try to figure it out in the morning. We then headed to the Ceverceria de Santa Anna for some paella and drinks then next door to Naturbier, a local microbrewery. (Yep, we find them even in Spain!)


Yummy seafood paella


It was similar in style to a lot of bavarian style beers, and the roasted one that I had was pretty good. We then went looking for Casa de Abuello (recommended by Rick Steve) and ended up seeing 3 of them in the span of about a block and a half. We ended up stopping at the El Museo del Jamón (The Museum of Ham) for some dessert-type snacks that ended up being subpar, but we enjoyed people watching in the Plaza del Sol while we ate them. We took the metro, to the express bus, to the airport shuttle and finally to the hotel!  Enjoyed some more drinks and internets at the bar then packed it in to be ready for Sevilla in the morning.

Day 4 – Madrid to Sevilla

We woke up early since it was going to be pretty busy morning and headed to the train station.  We weren’t able to change the ticket because MC got a reduced rate online, but we decided to try to make things work.  We dropped our bags off in a locker at the train station then walked over to the art museum, grabbing breakfast on the way.  We sat outside for a while until it finally opened then we beelined it to the Salvador Dalí section.  Salvador Dalí is one of my favorite artists and it was pretty cool to see some of his work in person, though MC wasn’t the biggest fan of some of his weirdest stuff. We also saw one of Picasso’s most famous works, Guernica, which was frickin’ awesome. Then it was time to head back to the train station.  Grabbed our bags, hopped on the train, and we were off to Sevilla! Unfortunately, there were a group of loud Americans and one of the girls had the kind of voice that should be amplified and studied by the government as a form of warfare.  Luckily, we made it to Sevilla without killing any of them and caught a cab to our hotel. Walked to a nearby cafe, Camela, for some food, and sitting outside reminded us that we might want an extra layer for walking around since we luckily brought the cloudy/rainy weather with us from Madrid.


Tapas are a staple in Spain

Stopped back by the hotel to grab a layer and book our flamenco performance for the night then walked down to the Sevilla Cathedral.  Unfortunately, there was some special circumstance so it was closed for the day.  We decided to just walk around and explore Sevilla for a bit instead.  Picked up some super yummy sweet snack, including a coconut macaroon, from a little stand and noticed how many Spanish women refuse to change what they wear just because they were going to be riding their bike that day.


MC pondering Sevilla

We moseyed to dinner then it was off to the flamenco show!  We got awesome seating near the front, but the chairs were not large and pretty packed in there.  An old chubby lady sat next to/squished MC then we discovered that there was a balcony so we opted to move up there and it was much more comfortable.


They really beat the hell out of that floor

The flamenco was ridiculously awesome and a ton of fun to watch. If the video below doesn’t load, you can check it out here.



After the show we walked back to a main road with lots of shops and eateries. The first place we stopped had some unpleasant orange wine, some beer, and a crazy salty sandwich. Then went to another place and had some paella, sangria, and beer then walked back to the hotel.

Day 5 – Sevilla, then to Barcelona

Woke up in our little hotel room, checked out and left the luggage at the hotel so we could go hit some of the sites. Grabbed some breakfast at Campanario then headed over to the cathedral (3rd largest in Europe!).


Saw where Columbus is buried (top left), used a mirror to take our picture along with the fancy ceiling (top middle), and hiked to the top of the tower for some awesome views of Sevilla (especially since the weather was being a little nicer).

Looking back over the cathedral at Sevilla



We then headed over to Alcazar where we walked through the palace and the awesome gardens.

MC's kind of castle ;-)

In the gardens with my sweetie


From there we walked to the Plaza de España, but unfortunately we didn’t have much time to really enjoy it for very long before we had to start making the trek back.

Not the cleanest stitched panorama, but you get the gist



Stopped  for lunch on the way back then briskly walked to the hotel to get our luggage.  Caught a cab to the train station then it was off to Barcelona! 5.5 hours later we arrived, caught a taxi to the Cuitati Hotel.  Got checked in to the snazzy modern hotel then walked down the street to Txirimiri for some food and drinks. Walked back to the hotel and wound down with our free internets before crashing.

Day 6 – Barcelona

Enjoyed not having to wake up early for anything then hit the hotel restaurant’s breakfast buffet.  Finished getting ready then started walking towards the Basilica de Familia Sagrada.  Walked past the Arc de Triomf on the way, which was at the end of a cool little open park area.


Arches are really popular in Europe

We finally arrived at the basilica, which was designed by Antoni Gaudí and is considered his magnum opus.  It is still currently under construction, but it was frickin’ awesome.  It was huge, like many cathedrals in Europe, but it had a much more modern feel to it and he was inspired my many different designs that he found in nature.


There was a lot of information about how he came by the designs, the models that he built, and the aspects of nature that he modelled.  It was really, really cool.  We left there, grabbed a snack, then hopped on the metro.  Got off near the University so we could walk through the La Rambla, a street known for shopping and such.

The main street

The fresh market


The shops were kinda cool, but not too impressive.  The market, however, was crazy.  Tons of different things from desserts, fresh fruit and nuts, ice cream, vegetables, fish, and even skinned goat head (eyes still in socket).  Definitely unique. We couldn’t leave without getting SOMETHING so we grabbed some sweet goodies that ended up costing us 15 frickin’ euro but were SUPER delicious.  We continued to walk down the La Rambla until we reached the end at the Columbus statue near the waterfront. We walked along the waterfront and enjoyed the views while heading back towards the hotel.

Stop! LOBSTER TIME!



We checked out some souvenir shops on the way then regrouped and rested at bit at the hotel. It was definitely nice to have a hotel in the middle of things as opposed to the one in Madrid that took us a minimum of 45 minutes to get to! We stopped by the internet corner of the hotel (two linux computers, woot!) and procured tickets for the Picasso museum and the bus tour that we were going to check out the next day then headed to Tast d’argenteria for dinner.  Headed back to the hotel after dinner to try to pack it in a little earlier since our plan was to try to actually squeeze a run in the next day.

Day 7 – Last day in Barcelona/Spain

Surprisingly, we actually made it up and went out for our run! The garmin decided not to cooperate when I tried to read in the data, so I mapped out an approximation of the route we took.


Don't get to incorporate running the stairs of an old monument very often!



My route was like 1.8 miles while we covered a little over 2, but it is close enough to get the idea. :-) We cleaned up then hit the hotel breakfast buffet then walked to where we would pick up the bus for our tour. As is the case with most bus tours, the view for picture taking weren’t always the best, but I was able to get some snaps off.


When we hopped off the bus, we walked down to the Casa Batllo, another cool building designed by Gaudi. Unfortunately, the line was pretty long and it was expensive so we didn’t check out the inside. Enjoyed some of the other buildings walking down the block of discord then had lunch and moseyed back to the hotel.  A short walk later and we were at the Picasso museum!  I was familiar with his blue period and his cubism, but that was about the extent of my knowledge.  It made it really cool to see works from when he was very young and read about the changes in his life and then seeing the effect it had on his style as his work progressed.  The “finale” was a set of works that was a study of Las Meninas, a work by Velázquez. It was a whole room where he basically repainted the painting, or portions of it, with greatly varied interpretations.  Many felt very cubist, but I thought it was really cool to see a talented artist do such an interesting exploration. After the Picasso museum, we did some souvenir shopping then took one of Rick Steves’ suggestions for dinner at Taller de Tapas. It was our “nice” meal of the trip and made for a good finale indeed.  We decided we wanted to stop at least one place on the way home and ended up accidentally choosing an english bar. So after all the San Miguel and Cruzcampo, it looked as though I was going to end with a Guinness.  I didn’t think this proper and we weren’t QUITE done with the trip yet so I grabbed a huge San Miguel and MC got some cider to help motivate us to pack and wind down our last evening in Spain.

Day 8 – Heading home

We got up and out early and took a cab to the bus stop then took the bus in to the airport.  We were there plenty early, but due to some maintenance issue (surprise surprise) the flight ended up being delayed by over an hour. Luckily we didn’t have a connecting flight so we were too worried, until we got paged to the ticket counter. I, of course, thought they were going to try to bump us or something since they had made announcements about needing volunteers to take the next flight, but apparently, my travel luck (at least with regard to flying) finally took a turn for the better!  I guess MC and I got to the top of the list because we are both Delta Medallion members, but we got to the counter to find out that we had been given a FREE upgrade to business class!  How ridiculously awesome is that!? Not only did we get to make the 10 hour flight in style, but it was a redesigned business class where each seat has it’s own “command center” (as I liked to call it) and the seats are staggered so you can legit lay pretty flat without being affected by the person in front of you.


Engage!

My sweetie, riding in comfort

I was SUPER excited and it was SUPER awesome!  Since it was a day flight I wasn’t sleepy so MC and I watched Bridesmaids “together” (at the same time on our respective screens), then I watched X-Men: First Class then followed that with Fast Five.  Most of the rest of the flight was spent playing on my computer and such.


Bye bye Spain!

After around FOREVER we made it through all the security BS that Atlanta has.  Because the geniuses designed it so the international flights funnel back into the concourses, we had to “re-check” our bags and go through security again AFTER we got off the plane.  How annoying. Anyhoo, we finally made it and made the 4.5 hour trek back to our townhome.  It was a frickin’ awesome trip that my wonderful wife did an amazing job as planner and translator for.  I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate our anniversary.